Former Arsenal and Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has advised any gay footballer considering coming out not to bother.
Lehmann, who retired in 2011 following a career that included winning the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A titles, believes that players would be compromising their safety if they chose to reveal their sexuality.
In an interview with Sky (h/t Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC), Lehmann is quoted as saying: "Anyone doing that would be nuts. You can’t foresee what would happen. You can’t advise anyone to do so -- they would no longer have fun playing football."
Lehmann is a former teammate of Thomas Hitzlsperger, who, after retiring in September 2013, came out as gay this month.
And Lehmann, who played alongside Hitzlsperger for Stuttgart and Germany, said it could have proved difficult if the midfielder had come out when they were playing together: "Strange, I think. You shower together every day, and there are times when it would be difficult."
Lehmann, who is a candid and honest speaker, has a fair point that gay footballers could face a tough time from fans and teammates about their sexuality if they chose to come out while still playing.
But until it happens, and people are faced with the situation in reality from actual players, it will remain a taboo that needs to be addressed in order for football to come into line with other major sports that have experienced the matter and athletes who have embraced it.
As reported by BBC Sport, Hitzlsperger received nothing but good wishes following his decision to reveal his sexuality publicly, and there is no doubt that most real fans of football would only treat any other footballer brave enough to do the same thing with warmth, compassion and understanding.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!